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Aware of a surge in new cases of the coronavirus, the Orange City Council has extended its mask law for another two months, while dropping its ban on private events that may draw crowds.

The City Council Dec. 8 renewed the emergency ordinance requiring people — with some health-related exceptions — to wear masks inside businesses.

“I’m in favor of keeping the ordinance in place,” Mayor Gary Blair said.

The ordinance also mandates businesses to post signs requiring those entering their premises to wear face coverings. The law treats churches as “business establishments,” whose patrons must wear masks.

When it was first enacted earlier this year, the ordinance provided that violators could be fined — $25 for the first offense — for not wearing a mask, but a subsequent executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis forbade localities from collecting fines. Thus, the city no longer has the power to penalize maskless offenders.

Yet, had the council not extended the mask law, it would have expired at midnight Dec. 8. Under Orange City’s charter, an emergency ordinance may be in effect for only 60 days, unless the council re-enacts it for an additional 60 days.

Vice Mayor Bill O’Connor cast the dissenting vote on renewing the mask ordinance. O’Connor, while supporting the wearing of masks in public places, questioned the value of an ordinance that lacks enforcement power.

Orange City police say they have issued no citations for failing to comply with the mask order.

While it retained the mask mandate, the Orange City Council opted to allow people to apply for permits for special events on public property or public rights of way. At O’Connor’s urging, the council decided to require anyone seeking a permit for an activity or event to submit “a safety plan” for maintaining social distancing and making masks and hand sanitizer available for those attending.

At this writing, city officials say they have not received any applications for permits for such activities.


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